Friday, December 17, 2010

Who is Zeus?


In Greek mythology, Zeus is one of the most important gods. He is the king of all other gods and the ruler of Mount Olympus, which is the highest mountain in all of Greece. Furthermore, Zeus controls the sky and the power of thunder and lightning. In iconography, Zeus is often associated with the symbols of the thunderbolt, oak tree, and the eagle Not only is Zeus a powerful figure unto himself, but he is also linked by family to many other gods in the Greek mythological family tree. Zeus was the son of Cronus and Rhea. In most mythological traditions, Zeus is married to Hera. With Hera, Zeus fathered Ares, Hephaestus, and Hebe.
However, almost all myth systems agree the Zeus had numerous extramarital trysts. For example, he is believed to be the father of Aphrodite, who was the daughter of Dione. This particular mythological story was reinforced by the famous bard Homer in his epic, The Iliad. Through his affair with Demeter, Zeus sired the goddess Persephone. Furthermore, his relationship with Mnemosyne brought the Muses into the world. In most schools of mythology, Zeus is also credited for fathering Minos, Athena, Artemis, Dinoysus, Heracles, Apollo, Hermes, Perseus, and Helen.
Much Roman mythology and Etruscan mythology is in keeping with the tales of Greek mythology, Zeus also plays a role in these schools of myth. His Roman counterpart is the god Jupiter; in Etruscan mythology, he is known as Tinia.
bull. In fact, Zeus is often shown holding a thunderbolt in his hand, prepared to strike down anyone who might scorn him or his brethren. In Greek art, Zeus is almost always pictures standing or striding in a powerful, daunting manner. In order to pray and pay homage to Zeus, Greeks would travel to Mount Olympia, which was viewed as being Zeus's home or temple. In fact, there was a festival held at this location every four years during which competitive games were played. This tradition, of course, lead to the Olympic games which are still played and honored worldwide today. The temple of Zeus at Mount Olympia was made of ash rather than stone. This ash was taken from the accumulation of many centuries' worth of animal sacrifices that had taken place at that location.
God of the gods and of the sky, pictured with a thunderbolt or lightning in his hand, Zeus was the most powerful god. He had overturned his father Cronus and seized power, and everything was ultimately in his hands. Zeus was a weather god, as well as the protector of the law, the state, the society, the city, the family and strangers.

Zeus main shrine was in Dodona, where it was believed one could hear the future being told by the wind blowing through the the leafs of the holy oaktrees that grew there. In Olympia he was honoured every four years with the Olympic Games and Phidias statue of him there was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  The Nemean Games were also held in his honour. The birds, especially the eagle, were believed to be Zeus messengers and so his priests were careful to try and foretell the future through the birds flight. Mountains were often named after Zeus and still today there are mountains of Zeus all over Greece, for example on Crete and Naxos.
On Crete Zeus was especially worshipped since it was believed he grew up there, in hiding from his father who would have eaten him had he known of Zeus existence. On Crete his worshippers believed he was born there, and that he also died there. There was even a tomb there said to be his.The name Zeus is believed to originate in the Sanskrit dyaus which means heaven. The ancient Greeks also called him Dias, and this name has through the Latin Deus become a common word for God in many languages.

Apart from being the highest God, Zeus was also a mischievous one. Constantly unfaithful to his jealous wife and sister Hera, Zeus had many children with other women, both mortal and immortal. With Hera he had Ares, Hebe, Hephaestus and Eileithyia.

In the guise of a swan he had seduced queen Leda of Sparta, and she bore Helen of Troy and Polydeukes as a result. As a bull he kidnapped the Phoenician princess Europa and she gave birth to Minos and Rhadamanthus.

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